Ji-Tu Cumbuka, who had roles in “Roots,” “Brewster’s Millions” and “Harlem Nights,” died Tuesday in Atlanta.
He was 77.
“I (talked) to my Uncle Ji-Tu last week after he spoke to his doctor and he told me wasn’t going to be here much longer then a week,” his niece, Amber Holifield, wrote on Facebook.
“Once it registered what he was telling me, I ask him if he leaves then what do I do?? He said (as he would) ‘Deal with it… I’m dealing with it’ … so l laugh and said you iiiss right!”
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Cumbuka appeared as slave Wrestler in Alex Haley’s Emmy-winning TV miniseries “Roots,” as well as several movies with Richard Pryor, including “Harlem Nights,” “Moving” and “Brewster’s Millions.”
In 1973, he played former NBA guard Oscar Robertson in “Maurie,” the biodrama about the life of Maurice Stokes.
He also had TV roles in “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “Walker, Texas Ranger” and “In the Heat of the Night” and as a series regular on “A Man Called Sloane” in 1979.
In 2011, Cumbuka published his autobiography, “A Giant to Remember: The Black Actor in Hollywood.”
His name in Swahili translates to the book’s title: “Ji-Tu” means “giant” and “Cumbuka” means “to remember.”
“He played the Wrestler in the original ‘ROOTS,’ one of Kunta’s primary mentors; as he was for me on my first gig!” LeVar Burton tweeted Sunday.
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